Session 3: Moving Beyond the Trauma: Innovative Response to the Differential Impacts of COVID-19
June 24, 2020

Why this session: COVID-19 has presented us with an unprecedented challenge at a scale that is completely new to us. While its effects appear to conform to what we understand with concepts like 'traumatic event,' 'catastrophe,' or 'natural disaster,' the scope and duration go beyond any of those terms or frames of understanding and response.  Presenter, Dr. Maurice Stevens, will weave into the session the current complexity surrounding George Floyd's murder and subsequent protests, and how to deepen our capacity to respond to all that events like these bring up.


It didn't take long, though, for us to see that in times of extreme upheaval, safety, belonging, agency, being enough, and worthiness come into question. When our taken-for-granted ways of knowing the world are shaken, individuals and groups often rely on habitual patterns of response to restore a sense of control, orderliness, and predictability. For example:


  • At the individual level—emotional and physiological habits of denial, rage, depression, and numbing abound.

  • At the level of group identity—we see familiar patterns of inclusion and exclusion, blame and recrimination being projected onto racial, ethnic, or political 'others.'

  • Our institutions—often relying on obsolete strategies of response and organizational protocol, reveal familiar fault lines of systemic oppression and harm as poor people and people of color see much higher fatality rates in relation to COVID-19.

  • Racism, classism, homophobia, ableism, ageism, and sexism—are now undeniably the deadly 'underlying conditions' determining life outcomes in very immediate and visible ways. Indeed, we are all in this together, but not in the same way.


COVID-19's Differential Impacts:

  • Blacks represent 70% of Chicago's COVID-19 fatalities (while making up 29% of the city population)

  • Women make up 77% of health care workers, 78% of social workers and more than 2/3rds of grocery store and fast-food employees

  • COVID-19 related closures have wiped out Native American Tribal tax bases

  • Nearly 5.8 million people have jobs in health care that pay less than $30,000 per year, 50% are nonwhite and 83% are women

  • Women account for 73% of health care workers who have been infected with coronavirus

  • People in ICE detention facilities or correctional facilities are at increased risk for infection (many of whom are immigrants and/or people of color)

  • 62.5% of Washington DC's COVID-19 fatalities are African-American (of a 46% population share)

  • Over the past 5 months we have seen a dramatic increase in Anti-Asian assaults, harassment, and hate crime in the U.S. and globally

  • As of April, the Navajo Nation had the third-highest per capita rate of COVID-19 in the country


We simply must come up with innovative responses and we must do so together. Moreover, we must do so in ways that do not simply reproduce the conditions or duplicate the social relationships that have defined our reactions to this point. We have an opportunity to learn from this unique circumstance and to create practices that will prepare us to respond in more just ways when we face future challenges of this magnitude.


Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this session, you will:

  • Increase your understanding of trauma, and the habitual ways individuals and institutions respond to overwhelming events

  • Apply an “inclusive lens” to sort out the differential impacts of COVID-19

  • As an individual, identify innovative and generative responses to trauma, to replace habitual ones

  • As an organizational leader, gain innovative ways to guide the organization through the immediate needs, then beyond toward the future



Maurice Stevens is a Professor in the Department of Comparative Studies at the Ohio State University and an adjunct faculty member for the Pacifica Graduate Institute in the department of Depth Psychology’s Community, Liberation, and Eco-Psychology Program. Dr. Stevens is also a writing coach for the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity and, in addition, offers Polarity-based individual and organizational coaching.


Dr. Stevens brings expertise in designing interdisciplinary and engaged research methodologies, participatory leadership models, and community-driven social justice informed research to their scholarly interests and community engagements. They have worked with such organizations as the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Ohio Health, Design Impact, the Athens Foundation, St. Mary's University, Ohio State University, Capital University, Otterbein University, My Brother's Keeper, and many other organizations and community partners.


Dr. Stevens’ research interests include the formation and representation of identity in and through visual culture and political performance, critical trauma theory, disability studies, critical and transformative pedagogy, science and technology studies, popular cultural performance, theories of affect and embodiment, and participatory knowledge production. Dr. Stevens’ first book is titled Troubling Beginnings: Trans(per)forming African-American History and Identity, and they are currently working on a second book called Catastrophe’s Glow: A Critical Trauma Theory for Chaotic Times.


Stevens received their B.A. in Religion and Anthropology from Princeton University and their M.A. and Ph.D. from the interdisciplinary History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz.


NWDLS is Managed by:  The Institute for Sustainable Diversity and Inclusion (ISDI)


ISDI is a non-profit organization established for the purpose of educating, supporting and collaborating with key stakeholders on ways to leverage differences and practice inclusion to enhance individual and organizational success.  


ISDI was founded in 2015 and assumed the management of the Northwest Diversity Learning Series in 2016, formerly managed by Archbright. Barbara Deane, the original NW Series co-founder, and Effenus Henderson, retired Chief Diversity Officer, Weyerhaeuser are the co-founders and directors of the Institute.  This is the 21st year of the NWDLS!


JOIN US in 2020 for the NW Diversity Learning Series:


(Please note: the order of topics and titles may shift slightly as we work with presenters.)

Session 4:  A World Beyond Now: Eliminating the Impact of White Supremacy in Our Systems, August 12

Session 5:  Latin Rising: Delivering on the Promise, September 23

Session 6:  How Algorithms ARE Affecting You: Decoding the Bias Within, December 2